‘They arise from the inward Concavity of the Kidneys, whose various Pipes meeting and closing together, form the Ureter’.
Ysbrand van Diemerbroeck, The anatomy of humane bodies … translated by
William Salmon (London, 1689), p. 128.
As Purkerson and Wechsler note, some of the earliest depictions of the kidney date back to votive offerings from the 13th century BC. It was an immediately recognisable organ but despite this its position in the body continued to be incorrectly depicted, even by Andreas Vesalius (1514–64), who in figure 22 of book V of the De Fabrica, displayed the right kidney as being higher than the left.
Caspar Bauhin, Theatrum anatomicum (Frankfurt, 1621), Lib. I, Tab. XVIII.
This image depicts the two kidneys (‘T’ and ‘V’) and the ureters linking them to the bladder. As Marz and Karenberg explain, the terms ‘ureter’ and ‘urethra’ were used interchangeably in Hippocratic writings to refer to what we now call the ureter, and it was only in the first century AD that they were defined by Greek physician Aretaeus of Cappadocia. Anatomical nomenclature was always challenging and, as Persaud notes, the Swiss anatomist and botanist Caspar Bauhin (1560–1624) attempted to introduce ‘a more rational approach to anatomical nomenclature’. The above image is taken from Worth’s copy of Bauhin’s Theatrum anatomicum (Frankfurt, 1621), a textbook originally published in 1605 by Bauhin. A student of Fabricius of Acquapendente (1533–1619) at Padua, he is perhaps best known in anatomical terms for his embryological studies and his own on the ileocaecal valve at the junction of the small and large intestine.
Text: Dr Elizabethanne Boran, Librarian of the Edward Worth Library, Dublin.
Marx, Franz Josef, and Axel Karenberg, ‘Uro-words making history: Ureter and Urethra’, The Prostate, 70, no. 9 (2010), 952–8.
Persaud, T.V.N., A History of Anatomy. The Post-Vesalian Era (Springfield, 1997).
Purkerson, Mabel L. and Lilla Wechsler, ‘Depictions of the Kidney through the Ages’, Am. J. Nephrol., 17 (1997), 340–46.
Van Diemerbroeck, Ysbrand, The anatomy of humane bodies … translated by William Salmon (London, 1689).
 Worth owned a Latin edition of this work, printed in Geneva in 1679.
 Purkerson, Mabel L. and Lilla Wechsler, ‘Depictions of the Kidney through the Ages’, Am. J. Nephrol., 17 (1997), 340.
 Persaud, T.V.N., A History of Anatomy. The Post-Vesalian Era (Springfield, 1997), p. 222.